The Internet has become an integral part of modern life. Many older people are amazed, and often confused, about what can be done online these days. At the same time, many young people don’t know about life before the Internet and smart devices.
Despite the significant gains that have already been made, all indications point to the Internet playing an even bigger role in years to come. Let’s look at the importance of Internet in today’s society and some predictions about the future of Internet.
The Importance of the Internet in the 21st Century
As you probably already know, the Internet is a network of millions of devices including computers, smartphones, and tablets which are connected via Internet protocol. You likely use the Internet for several different functions without even thinking about it.
Let’s look at some of the uses of the Internet.
When you think about the importance of the Internet, this is one of the areas that immediately come to mind. Before the Internet, people had to send written messages via letter or make calls from a regular telephone. Snail mail, as it is now called, took weeks or months to be delivered and this hampered the effectiveness of communication.
Nowadays, an email can be sent, read and replied to all in a matter of seconds. However, even email can seem too slow.
Instant messaging tools are now the preferred choice when you want an instant reply. Apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, and Skype allow you to interact in real time using text, video, photos, emoji, and GIFS. Almost every activity has become social.
Business communication has also become more sophisticated thanks to the Internet. The introduction of video conferencing meant executives and government officials no longer had to travel long distances for meetings.
Advances in the Internet also allowed businesses to have live chat features on their websites. This means someone is there to answer queries immediately and guide customers through their purchases.
In 2017, an estimated 1.66 billion people purchased goods online. The Internet has made it possible to get anything you want delivered to your door. Whether it’s food from your favorite restaurant several blocks away or clothing from a store on the other side of the world, it’s only a few clicks or swipes away.
You also have access to a greater number of options. You’re no longer limited to what’s available in your city or country. You can compare products and prices from both large retailers and small home-based business who you wouldn’t otherwise know about.
Similarly, you can sell your products to people anywhere in the world because of marketplaces like Etsy, storefront solutions like Shopify and user-friendly website builders like Squarespace and Wix. You don’t need to have a brick and mortar location to present yourself as a legitimate business.
We can’t discuss the importance of Internet without talking about education. There was a time when you had to take distance learning courses via mail or go to a brick and mortar location to take a class. Today, online learning is on the rise.
You can log on to a university’s system and either take classes in real time or work at your own pace. People who have work or family commitments can take lessons whenever it is convenient for them. There is no longer a need to travel long distances between home and a college campus.
There are also lots of free or low-cost courses available on almost any subject available. This has democratized learning to a large extent. Anyone with an internet connection can expand their knowledge.
Universities also benefit. They can enroll more students than they can physically accommodate on their campus. They also have access to students who wouldn’t normally have the means to attend whether because of geography or finances.
Workers across a wide range of fields will tell you about the importance of Internet to their duties. Their office may have gone paperless in favor of a cloud-based document storage system. They may do online research, carry out financial transactions, manage invoices, or market their products and services.
Many business owners use Internet-based tools for project management, job scheduling, and human resource management. They may have weekly video conferences with clients or vendors in different locations.
Then there are workers who never go to an office. They work from home, hotel rooms or coffee shop. The rise of the freelance and gig economy is a consequence of improved Internet connectivity across the globe. You are no longer limited to jobs in your locale and you don’t have to move to work for a company on the other side of the world. Online marketplaces like Upwork, Fiverr and PeoplePerHour make it easy for skilled workers to connect with the people who need their services.
These workers have more flexibility than those in jobs which are location dependent. They can create their own schedule while meeting family commitments or changing locations every few months.
For some people, the importance of the Internet is most obvious when it comes to recreation. The Internet makes it easy to access music, movies, video games and vlogs are available on-demand. Social networks like Instagram and Facebook are a treasure trove of entertainment.
Creating online entertainment content is a revenue stream for many people. Even teenagers have been able to monetize their YouTube channels. This revenue stream wouldn’t exist without the Internet.
Even if you decide to go out to a movie, play concert, you can purchase tickets online and download them to your phone. You no longer have to waste time standing in a long line at the box office.
The Internet also gives entertainers, show promoters and entertainment business owners greater reach. They have access to additional sources of revenue and more platform on which to market and promote their talents and events.
The Future of the Internet and What You Can Expect
It is hard to say exactly where the Internet will go since things change so rapidly. However, there are ongoing developments which point to some of the areas which are likely to see the greatest advancements. Chief among them is the Internet of Things and augmented and virtual reality. Let’s look at these in greater detail.
The Internet of Things
In broad terms, the Internet of Things refers to connected devices around the world which collect and share data. These devices are connected with automated systems to gather information and act on it without the need for human involvement. The information these devices gather is used to help people with tasks and automate function.
Currently, you can get a number of smart items for your home like light bulbs, speakers, thermostats, smoke detectors, and security cameras. What is available now is just scratching the surface of what is possible. Sometimes these items don’t work well together and there are security risks so you need to be careful when buying smart products.
In the future of internet, there will have to be standards for the manufacturing of these devices. Manufacturers will also have to pay greater attention to security. The use of smart devices is likely to grow but there could be several problems if these issues aren’t taken care of soon.
Driverless Vehicles and Smart Cities
The future of the internet will also see the increased emphasis being placed on driverless vehicles and smart cities. All the hype surrounding autonomous cars may make it seem like they will be on the roads with regular vehicles soon.
Chances are, the world will eventually get there. In the immediate future, driverless mass transit vehicles may be used in controlled environments like college campuses and airports which are more predictable.
The number of innovative smart cities across the world is likely to increase. A 2017 survey by the National League of Cities found that 66 percent of cities made investments in smart technology. This doesn’t necessarily mean dramatic moving sidewalks but simply increasing efficiency through the use of technology.
The future of Internet could see more cities using sensors and cameras to collect and analyze data on a range of public goods and utilities. These include lighting, waste management, security, water and crowd control. Smart cities are all about improving life in urban areas for people who live and work there.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
Augmented reality superimposes computer-generated images on your view of the real world. Virtual reality simulates a three-dimensional image or environment and allows you to interact with it using special visual and tactile equipment.
In many ways, these technologies are still only used in a limited way across the globe. However, the future of the Internet could see them being deployed even further.
Augmented and virtual reality can be used for entertainment, education and even in the medical field. Students can learn through “experience” without actually leaving the classroom. People can “visit” exotic destinations around the world or take part in experiences they would never be physically able to do. Virtual reality can help in the teaching of young doctors and surgeons.
The importance of the Internet in today’s world can be understated. It has become invaluable in almost every facet of life. However, even more, advances will be made in the coming decades. Expect major investments for governments and businesses in the Internet of Things, smart cities and augmented or virtual reality experiences.
Emily Jacobs is Happiness Ambassador for SpeedCheck.org
She loves to write the latest technology trends and love to share her knowledge through her articles.